It wasn't supposed to be this way. Mariah Carey's first album for Virgin Records was supposed to be a triumph, an album that confirmed her status as pop's reigning diva, while serving as the soundtrack to a film that proved her crossover status was every bit as potent as that of her unexpected arch-rival Jennifer Lopez. Instead, Glitter proved to be an utter meltdown -- the pop equivalent of Chernobyl. It's hard not to sympathize with everybody involved, actually, from Mariah herself, to all the musicians and producers involved in this and the film, plus the label that shelled out millions of dollars for a proven quantity that suddenly stopped delivering the goods. Because Glitter is a catastrophe -- it captures Mariah on a downturn of creativity and popularity, just when she needs to shine the brightest, and then it was paired with an extremely public emotional breakdown, highlighted by a bizarre appearance on TRL, where she was seemingly dressed only in a T-shirt and handing out Popsicles, plus a scarily suicidal message posted and then quickly deleted from her website. Poor Mariah! Poor Virgin! Who could have predicted this pop perfect storm? And, when you're seeing it unfold, or listening to it unspool, it's hard not to be shocked by the miscalculation of every aspect of Glitter. Superficially, it's not that all far removed from her last Columbia album, Rainbow, but if that record illustrated the freeing effect of her divorce from Tommy Motolla, this album shows that Mariah needs some guiding force, something to keep her on track. Otherwise, she sinks into gormless ballads, covers of early-'80s funk tunes that sound exactly like the originals, hip-hop funk that plays plastic and stiff. This touches on everything Mariah tried before, but nothing works -- not the oversinging, not the sentimental, not the desperate attempts for street cred. If she indeed was paranoid about Lopez's career and success, as certain tabloid reports indicated, she shouldn't have made a record that seems to ape On the 6 the way that album slavishly followed prime Mariah. It's an embarrassment, one that might have been easier to gawk at if its creator wasn't so close to emotional destruction at the time of release.
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
feat: Eric Benét